Frank Rubio has just returned to Earth following the completion of a 371-day mission at the International Space Station
Frank Rubio is finally back on his home planet.
What was meant to be a six-month mission turned into a 371-day trip to space for the astronaut and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, who returned to Earth on Wednesday, according to a press release from NASA.
The trio’s unexpected trip broke a world record for the longest an astronaut from the United States has spent in microgravity, overtaking the former record of 355 days held by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin departed the International Space Station in the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft on Wednesday and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 7:17 a.m. EST in Kazakhstan. Upon landing, the astronauts underwent medical checks, with the plan for Rubio, 47, to then fly home to Houston via a NASA airplane.
According to NASA, the mission was prolonged after it was discovered that a coolant leak had occurred on the Soyuz MS-22 while they were docked at the International Space Station. Their overall trip encompassed 157.4 million miles and 5,963 orbits of the Earth, NASA said.
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Rubio, who is a father of four, told CNN of his new record that — had he known the mission would be extended to this degree — he “probably would have declined," adding, "And that’s only because of family things that were going on this past year, and if I had known that I would have had to miss those very important events, I just would have had to say, ‘thank you, but no thank you.’”
The medical doctor and military helicopter pilot also told CNN in a recent interview that he was "looking forward to just being outside and enjoying the peace and quiet" after a year of hearing the space station's constantly humming machines.
It will take some time for Rubio's body to get used to life back on Earth, though, after existing outside of the planet's gravity — he told CNN he expects it to be anywhere from two to six months.
Of the mission, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in the news release, “Frank’s record-breaking time in space is not just a milestone; it’s a major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions. Our astronauts make extraordinary sacrifices away from their homes and loved ones to further discovery."
Continued Nelson, "NASA is immensely grateful for Frank’s dedicated service to our nation and the invaluable scientific contributions he made on the International Space Station. He embodies the true pioneer spirit that will pave the way for future exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
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